Over the years many Dawn readers from within and outside Pakistan have been emailing me complaining that whenever they tried to look for pictures of Pakistan on the internet that have little or nothing to do with vicious looking mullahs, suicide bombings and mutilated bodies, they have failed.
I have been scouting newspaper libraries and personal photo collections belonging to the parents, aunts and uncles of friends and acquaintances for the last many years in an attempt to chronicle social and cultural shifts and trends in Pakistan before the years when Pakistan’s cultural and social evolution began to become ruddily ridiculous because of a quasi-Orwellian ‘Islamist’ dictatorship – a flippant happening whose deafening echoes can still be heard and felt in the now much anguished and tormented Pakistan.
There is very little memory left of a Pakistan that today almost seems like an alien planet compared to what it has been since the mid-1980s.
Here, I will share with you some interesting photographs that I have managed to gather in the last couple of years of that alien country. A place that was also called Pakistan.
Guevara stayed for a short while in Karachi during his whirlwind tour of Arab and Third World countries (in 1959). He again visited Karachi in 1965 and that is when the above photograph was believed to have been taken (inside the VIP lounge of the Karachi Airport).
It is interesting to see Che standing with Ayub Khan whose military coup (in 1958) was backed by the US and who was highly repressive of leftist forces in Pakistan.
The irony is that the widespread leftist uprising in Pakistan in the late 1960s that helped topple the Ayub dictatorship was mainly led by leftist students, many of whose icon and hero was, yup, a man named Che Ernesto Guevara!
Resources: Adnan Farooq (Viewpoint Magazine); Shahid Saeed (Friday Times).
The convention gave birth to a populist democratic party that over the next four decades would go on to become passionately loved and loathed by Pakistanis in equal measure.
Chaired by the suave and yet exuberant Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the convention was attended by some of the country’s leading progressive and leftist intellectuals, journalists and radical student leaders.
This photo shows Bhutto seated among the men who would turn the PPP into a fervent progressive platform that not only accommodated committed Marxists, Maoists, ‘Islamic Socialists’ and liberals alike, but would also go on to sweep the 1970 general election (in former West Pakistan). The most endearing characteristic of the image is the way JA Rahim (an otherwise serious and sombre Marxist thinker and PPP’s leading ideologue) is actually sitting on Bhutto’s lap!
Rahim was one of the founders (along with ZA Bhutto) of the PPP and co-author of the party’s original socialist-democratic manifesto.
Unfortunately in 1975, Rahim had a falling out with Bhutto and was humiliatingly expelled from the party.
Bhutto, on the other hand, was hanged by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in 1979 through a sham trial, taking with him what still remains to be one of the most populist, dynamic and yet, contradictory eras in Pakistani politics.
Resources: PPP – The first phase (Hasan Askari Rizvi); PPP-Rise to Power (Philip Jones).
There were a number of reasons for the rapid fall of the industry and the consequential closing down of numerous cinemas.
Two of the leading reasons were the brutal censorship policies of the reactionary Ziaul Haq dictatorship in the 1980s, and the arrival of the videocassette recorder.
As Zia’s so-called ‘Islamisation’ process began stifling public space and collective socialising spots with moral policing and restrictions, people took their entertainment indoors.
Cinemas were hit the worst by this as the ‘respectable’ audiences stopped frequenting cinemas and the Pakistani film industry too began to fall apart.
‘Illegal’ video shops renting Indian films and porn (allowed to openly operate after bribing the police) sprang up and cinemas began to be torn down by their owners and turned into gaudy shopping malls.
For example, in Sindh alone, there were over 600 cinemas between 1969 and 1980, but only a few hundred remained by 1985.
Similarly, the Pakistani film industry used to generate an average of 20 Urdu films a year in the 1970s, but by the late 1980s, it was struggling to come out with even five a year.
The photo above was taken in 1969 outside Karachi’s famous Nishat Cinema. It was one of the first cinemas to introduce in-house air-conditioning in Pakistan. The picture shows a crowd of cine-goers gathered outside the already packed cinema, waiting their turn to see the premiere of a Pakistani war flick, ‘Qasam uss waqt ki.’
Nishat survived the thorny Zia years, the VCR invasion and the local film industry’s collapse.
In fact Nishat still stands. It survives by running the latest Indian and Hollywood films.
Resources: 50 years of Pakistani Cinema (Mushtaq Gazdar). Aqeel Jafiri (personal collection).
It is easy to spot the haunting irony on the page that is splashed with disastrous reports about the Pakistani war effort and an impending sense of doom – and yet (on the bottom right) there is a quarter-page ad placed by a large trading company showing the emblems of the Pakistan army, air force and navy and assuring us that “Inshallah (God willing), the victory would be ours”.
In hindsight, one can suggest that denial is not exactly a new trait that Pakistanis have acquired after 9/11; because the truth is that to most Pakistanis the stunning 1971 surrender actually came as a rude and shocking surprise. State-owned media and the armed forces had continued to claim that Pakistani forces were on the verge of a glorious victory right till (or just before) the final fall.
In fact, in the bulletin read out on Radio Pakistan only hours before the final defeat, the newscaster had reported that the Pakistan military was “continuing to deliver numerous setbacks and losses to the Indian army”. And we lapped it all up, like a kid smilingly licking an imaginary popsicle.
Resources: A History of Radio Pakistan (Nihal Ahmed).
Pakistan was an important destination on what was called the “hippie trail” – an overland route taken by young western backpackers between 1967 and 1979 that ran from Turkey, across Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, usually ending in Nepal.
Numerous low-budget hotels and a thriving tourist industry sprang up (in Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi) to accommodate these travellers.
The hippie trail began eroding after the 1977 military coup in Pakistan, the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the beginning of the Afghan civil war (in 1979).
Resource: Eddie Woods (Photo).
Live music, great food, lots of booze and dancing were the hallmarks of the scene. Shown here is a club band playing to a happy audience at a ‘mid-range’ nightclub in Karachi (in 1972).
According to former nightclub owner and entrepreneur Tony Tufail, “Karachi would have gone on to become what Dubai became later if not for the ban.”
*Nightclubs were closed down in April 1977.
Resource: Understanding Karachi (Arif Hassan); Instant City (Steve Inskeep).
Their visit was widely covered by the press and Pakistan Television. The astronauts were also honoured by a ‘welcome motorcade procession’ that travelled from Clifton Road till Tower area.
The photograph shows the motorcade reaching the Saddar area that was decorated with Pakistani, American and PPP flags and colourful banners.
Some of the astronauts travelled in an open truck (see picture). The truck also carries a banner that reads (in Urdu): “Welcome to the Apollo 17 astronauts.”
Resource: US Consulate General-Pakistan.
This brand of whiskey (according to late filmmaker and cinema historian Mushtaq Gazdar) appeared in hundreds of Pakistani films between 1950s and late 1970s. But why Vat 69?
Gazdar was not sure, but he did notice that (for whatever reasons) this brand of whiskey was used by most Pakistani directors if they had to show a ‘good person’ drowning their sorrows with the help of a stiff drink, whereas other brands were used if a ‘bad person’ was shown having a shot or two.
Also, bars and nightclubs in Karachi, though stuffed with local brands of beer, vodka and whiskey, mainly stocked Vat 69 as their vintage foreign/imported brand.
Interestingly, after sale of alcohol was banned in 1977 (to Muslims), Vat 69 lost its iconic status and was replaced by local brands (such as Lion Whiskey) now available in ‘licensed wine shops’ in Karachi and the interior Sindh, and Black Label stocked by enterprising bootleggers.
Considered to be one of the greatest minds produced by Pakistan, Dr Salam, a devout member of the Ahmadi community, was associated with various scientific and developmental projects undertaken by the government from the 1950s till 1974.
He quit and left Pakistan in protest after the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims (in the 1973 Constitution).
However, he kept returning to the country on the invitation of friends, but he never reconciled with those who had pushed to declare his community a non-Muslim minority in the country of his birth and work.
Resources: Abdus Salam Archives (Picture).
Starring popular 1970s Pakistani film actress, Shabnam, the film conveniently forgot that more than half of the hashish that was being consumed by the ‘invading hippies’ was actually being produced and smuggled in and from Pakistan!
Here he is seen talking to the press (surrounded by some members of the Jamat-i-Islami, Jamat Ulema Islam and Jamiat Ulema Pakistan).
The men then got up to say their evening prayers.
However, a commotion broke out between the religious leaders of the movement when JI and JUI men refused to pray behind JUP leader, Shah Noorani.
JUI was inclined towards Sunni Deobandi school of thought whereas Noorani was from the pro-Barelvi JUP. Though united in their opposition to Bhutto’s ‘socialism’, both men thought the other was a ‘misguided Muslim.’
Tipu, a leftist student leader from Karachi, had joined Murtaza Bhutto’s Al-Zulfikar Organisation to instigate an urban guerrilla war against the Ziaul Haq dictatorship (1977-88).
The plane was hijacked from Karachi, flown to Kabul and then to Damascus. Tipu and Co (armed with AK-47s and hand grenades) released the passengers after the Zia regime agreed to release 50-plus political prisoners from jails.
In 1984, however, in an ironic twist of fate, Tipu the Marxist revolutionary was executed by the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul after he had fallen out with Murtaza Bhutto, while the other hijackers travelled to Libya where they are said to be still living.
Resources: The Terrorist Prince (Raja Anwar); Abbas Ali (Personal Collection).
This article has been republished with the permission of Dawn.com.